Gandhari is one such character in Mahabharata that played an important role without participating in the war. She was the central character in the palace and many decisions that were taken were due to her influence. Here is a brief story of hers from her birth to death.
Gandhari was born to Subala, the King of the Gandhara kingdom. She was believed to bring joy and prosperity to the kingdom and thus, she was named Gandhari. She lived in the palace with her brother, Shakuni and her many other brothers. She was trained with all the skills that a princess would be trained and became a perfect maiden with virtues that were known all over the kingdom. One day, the king received a letter. The letter was the proposal from Hastinapur to marry Dhritarashtra, the brother of King Pandu. She was happy to receive the proposal and agreed to marry Dhritarashtra. However, she also knew that Dhritarashtra was blind. This flaw of Dhritarashtra pricked King Subala and Prince Shakuni. However, they proceeded with the marriage as Gandhari was happy and it would also strengthen their army as well as kingdom. Hence, they agreed to the marriage.
When Gandhari was about to marry Dhritarashtra, there were certain objections as to how she would be able to live a life with a person who is blind. They would be on different mindsets always and their lifestyles would always differ. In order to be eligible for the marriage and become Dhritarashtra’s perfect partner, she took an oath to blindfold herself for a lifetime. The marriage happened.
Gandhari was pregnant for a long time after marriage but did not conceive any child. Kunti, her sister-in-law, had given birth to Yudhisthir and he was an eligible heir to the throne. A worried Gandhari went to Ved Vyasa, who then took the pound of flesh that Gandhari had punched out of her womb and made 101 pieces. He then kept 101 pieces in pots and also blessed her with 100 sons and 1 daughter.
It was during the time of the Kurukshetra war that she approached Vyas again and asked her for a way to protect Duryodhana. As she was instructed, she opened her blindfold and through the power contained in her eyes, she made Duryodhana invincible except at the thighs where Lord Krishna had cleverly convinced him to wear clothes.
After the war was over and she had lost her 100 sons, she was furious at Lord Krishna because he could easily stop the war yet he went on with it. It is also because of him that she had lost all her children. She cursed Lord Krishna that his sons would also kill themselves in a war that later happens in the war of Yadavs.
After the war, Gandhari decided to go to the forest with Dhritarashtra and Kunti where they died in a forest fire. Gandhari played the role of a virtuous wife and mother but somewhere, fate had other plans for her and her life was very unfortunate.